Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 3, Episode 8: “Unfit”
Directed by Mike Barker
Written by Kira Snyder
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Under His Eye” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Heroic” – click here
Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) and the Handmaids help usher a new birth into the world. Ofandy (Kelsey Falconer) is having her baby— well, she doesn’t quite have it yet, a long labour. We see Ofmatthew (Ashleigh LaThrop) is being properly shunned after her confrontation with June (Elisabeth Moss) let everybody in on the betrayal. In another world, it’d be a sorority-like shunning. Here, it’s a moral one. Ofmatthew allowed someone to be executed and showed no remorse.
Janine (Madeline Brewer) doesn’t like how June and the others are treating the ostracised Handmaid, though she’s always been more hypnotised than the rest. Aunt Lydia notices what’s going on. She and June walk a thin line. She takes the Handmaid to the Red Center, where she tries to instil the puritanical “No one is without sin” mantra. The Handmaids are directed to shame June for her part in taking baby Nicole out of Gilead, as well as the Martha’s execution.
What does the Handmaid do?
She tells Aunt Lydia how Ofmatthew “doesn‘t want her baby.” Oh, my. A most grievous sin. Now, Ofmatthew is in the middle of the circle being shamed.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,
for by so doing some people have shown
hospitality to angels
without knowing it.”
We’re given a look at Lydia before the fall of American society.
She was a teacher, who also worked in “family law.” One day, she looked after a boy until his mother came late to pick him up. Mom— Noelle (Emily Althaus)— was struggling and Lydia extended a helping hand, taking two of them home for a real meal. The older woman was always pretty Conservative. One of the types mostly unable to understand the perspective(s) of other women. In present day, Lydia’s on the “Birthmobile” again with June and the others to help the baby finally arrive. When the child does come into the world everyone’s shocked to see it’s dead.
Later, June continues the antagonism with Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford). She has a few choice words about the treatment of his wife. “You‘re killing her,” she tells him. He’s not overly moved. There’s no telling, ever, what runs through his mind. Still not even clear what his deal is, and June can’t get a read on him totally, either.
More of past Lydia. She spent Christmas with Noelle and her boy. It was like the family she never had herself. She didn’t quite care much about her personal life, more concerned with being there for others. Lydia was never fully just helping. There was always a bit of judgement. Noelle tried to do her makeup and get her “out there.” So, on New Year’s Eve, Lydia went out on a date with her colleague, Jim (John Ortiz). They ate a nice meal, then did karaoke together (“Islands in the Stream” by the Bee Gees). They rang in the New Year. They went back to her place afterwards and things started to get heavy. Jim only lost his wife a while ago and couldn’t bring himself to go any further.
Lydia took this as a rejection.
Because her life wasn’t working how she wanted she decided to take it out on Noelle, whom she told authorities was a “corrupting influence” on her child. Ugly stuff. She was already internalising misogyny and directing it against others before Gilead in the name of patriarchy. No wonder she went along with fascism so easily.
“It’s an acquired taste
seeing others in pain.”
Lydia has decided to remove June from the Lawrence household. She doesn’t want any more trouble. Before she and June can have a conversation, Ofmatthew goes ape shit on Janine, cracking her in the face with a frozen can of food. She smashes one of the Guardians and gets glass in his neck. She takes his gun, pointing it at June while everybody waits to see what’ll happen.
But June slyly suggests the gun turn elsewhere.
Ofmatthew is about to pull the trigger on Lydia when she’s shot down. Holy fuck.
What a gruesome ending. June’s not fucking around— if you’re getting in the way, you’re getting taken out. Misogyny is misogyny, and the patriarchy knows no gender. Father Gore says it’s about time.
“Heroic” is next time.